Arran Wylde Eccles talks about FED nights and the harassment others experienced during their night out.
During my first year at Essex my flatmates and I had a somewhat unusual tradition.
It was something we liked to call “Every FED!” And to my embarrassment you may be aware of this ritual, given the alcohol we drank led us to scream it repeatedly on the walk to Sub Zero. The rules were simple; you attend every FED. In fact,I’m not ashamed to say that apart from my 2:1 and slimmer waistline, I still regard attending “Every FED!” my biggest achievement from first year.
However, these days FED is a night out I tend to avoid.
As sexual harassment is such a big topic on campus right now, I think it’s important to acknowledge all the different kinds of harassment that takes place on campus and encourage others to speak up.
FED is the night on campus for Essex Blades. It’s a chance for the players to bond with each other and build a stronger connection during training. However, it’s no secret that for some male orientated sports teams, the competitive element of the club stretches far beyond the playing field.
“I think it’s important to note that not every male sports team at Essex works this way. “
During initiation ceremonies, some teams are told that to gain respect, they have to complete tasks at FED. Sometimes these tasks can be harmless, but often new students are influenced to drink a dangerous amount of alcohol and engage in inappropriate, misogynistic behavior. A student on the women’s rugby team shared her experience when her teammates attended a joint social with the male players. Pictures of the girls were shown around to be ‘rated’, their clothes were torn, and degrading, cringe-worthy things were shouted at them throughout the evening. “In sub-zero, they’d surround us in a big circle. It was like a shark and a school of fish. They were trying to pick us off one by one.”
Being part of a team at Essex isn’t just about meeting new friends and playing the sports you love. For some teams, there is a much darker aspect to these socials which has integrated itself into the culture of Essex Blades. A side which manifests during Wednesday nights on campus and involves gaining merits by harassing women, sexually or verbally.
A real life example of this was given to me by an anonymous source. During her experience of harassment during FED, a boy continued to pursue her after making it clear she wanted him to stop.
This kind of harassment isn’t exclusive to FED, or to the male sports teams at the university. What makes it different to harassment on other nights out is that if the individual is on a sports team, they immediately have support. The more she rejected him, the more his sports team harassed her. If it wasn’t them shouting abuse at her across the smoking area, it was small, pathetic attempts to make her feel uncomfortable. The extent of this behavior even went as far as taking photographs of her in Sub-Zero and sharing them on social media.
To this day she is still hassled, it affects the routes she takes around campus, where she studies, and the nights out she chooses to attend. Yet to the boy and his teammates, she is nothing but another girl they forced into a corner. Just another joke to laugh at.
“In sub-zero, they’d surround us in a big circle. It was like a shark and a school of fish. They were trying to pick us off one by one.”
Sports teams that are guilty of this behavior don’t just harass women in order to pursue them; they do it because they find it funny. This stems from the undigested toxic masculinity that can be found in a competitive scenario and the inability to see women as anything other than a conquest. Another source explained she was only harassed on FED when she attended without her boyfriend. It was always by the same sports team, yet if her boyfriend or any male friends were nearby,they wouldn’t even look over. “They choose their timing wisely,” She said “They wait until you’re alone and outnumbered. And if you have support, they find someone else to bully. They don’t want a confrontational situation, they want an entertaining one.”
Female students attending FED often feel outnumbered. It is sometimes easier to be polite to those harassing you, but this politeness can only stretch so far. If the team member is guilty of this conduct and cannot gain respect through charming women, it’s not uncommon for the player to begin gaining it by belittling and harassing them. This may be because she symbolizes the failure of the individual’s tactics away from the field, or perhaps because basic insecurity prevents them from grasping the concept of ‘no’. Either way, the effects of this rejection are heightened with the support of an entire sports team.
I think it’s important to note that not every male sports team at Essex works this way. Every club at Essex is made up of different individuals with a different moral compass. Essex Blades is something as a university we should be proud of, but this kind of behavior is unacceptable and must be acknowledged.
Coko, a popular event for RnB music, is highly regarded for security and safety. Guest tickets cannot be bought. This is, supposedly, because the evening gets ‘rowdy’and has a certain ‘crowd’. But can the same not be said for FED?
FED too has a certain ‘crowd’, sports teams who have been known to exploit their combined power as a group. From groping to bullying, the list is never-ending. FED needs to become a safer environment, with more security actively looking for this kind of behavior. It’s simply not viable to rely on the victims of harassment to challenge this behavior; much more is at stake for them.
If you have been affected by the content of this article or are experiencing harassment yourself, there are always safe steps you can take. You can book an appointment with SU Advice by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively, the university now has a report and support system, where you can report your experience anonymously at https://reportandsupport.essex.ac.uk/.